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Is GoGuardian an invasion of students’ privacy?

Many+websites+such+as+Twitter+and+Netflix+are+blocked+by+the+district%2C+even+while+at+home.
Many websites such as Twitter and Netflix are blocked by the district, even while at home.

Many websites such as Twitter and Netflix are blocked by the district, even while at home.

Julia Hanley

Julia Hanley

Many websites such as Twitter and Netflix are blocked by the district, even while at home.

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With the introduction of a 1:1 digital learning curriculum with each student getting a Chromebook, the school has to find a way to keep students focused on schoolwork when using the Chromebooks. At the school board meeting in August of 2017, the school approved a one year contract with GoGuardian for $38,430 to give the teachers a method to monitor student Chromebook use.

Although I initially disliked the thought of the school and teachers being able to monitor students through GoGuardian, I realize the school has a responsibility to keep students safe and engaged. My only problem with GoGuardian is after looking into the GoGuardian website there is a section that said that there is both on and off campus monitoring ability. This would mean that the school could monitor what students are doing, even when they are at home.

The thought of my teachers being able to watch what I am doing on my computer in real time is a bit uncomfortable. With this invasion of privacy, students might be hesitant to trust their teachers and the school.

However, after a clarification on how the school will use GoGuardian, my opinion of it has changed. Ultimately, the school has a right to use the program for student safety on campus; however, limited access to websites should not happen off campus. 

Courtesy of d86.hinsdale86.org
Principal Walsh

“The active monitoring is not enabled or possible when that student is using that computer on a different WiFi network,” Principal  Bill Walsh said.

What this means is that students are free from their teachers potentially watching what they do live when they are at home, when they are not on the school WiFi network.

However, that doesn’t mean students are free from any sort of monitoring. In addition to using active monitoring, where the teachers have the ability to watch students’ screens, the school uses filter monitoring. GoGuardian has been programmed with certain keywords and phrases to alert administrators of certain threats to the school or to individual student safety.

“We are mandated to monitor and protect [students]…There is no person sitting there watching you guys,” Assistant Principal for Operations Ryan Maita said. “It’s more of GoGuardian will pick up some keywords and kick that to our tech department who then will alert the appropriate people.”  

Courtesy of d86.hinsdale86.org
Assistant Principal Maita

My biggest issue with GoGuardian is the off-campus monitoring feature mentioned on the GoGuardian website. With this new information that the school doesn’t actively monitor us at home, it does make me feel better about GoGuardian.

My only other grievance with GoGuardian was the fact that entertainment websites like Buzzfeed aren’t blocked while my personal Gmail is, making me go onto my phone or to another computer to check my emails.

The school’s contract with GoGuardian didn’t add or change what websites were blocked Principal Walsh explained. The district had already established which websites to block and GoGuardian had no effect on that.

There hasn’t been backlash from teachers with the new inclusion of GoGuardian into our school. Many of the features available help teachers keep students focused.

“One of the ways I use GoGuardian is to monitor student activity. This creates very few barriers for student research, but allows me to monitor usage to make sure students are on task,” said Mr. Michael Palmquist, English teacher.

Some teachers last year were trained on how to use GoGuardian to see if it could be implemented throughout the school.

“Instructional coaches have been trained extensively in how to use GoGuardian. Those coaches also designed and ran training seminars for teachers throughout the year last year, over the summer and again throughout the fall,” Palmquist said. “Instructional coaches also provide ongoing support for the use of GoGuardian for individual teachers as needed.”

Some students who had teachers experimenting with GoGuardian saw the helpfulness it provided.

“Honestly, I don’t mind [GoGuardian], our teacher used it and sent us alerts to keep us focusing,” said Leah Cecchini, sophomore. “It was useful for her because instead of walking everywhere to check peoples’ screens, she would just sit at her desk, which is probably really convenient for her.”

While my initial feelings about GoGuardian were hesitant and wary, after some clarifications it makes sense why the school is using it. The school has a responsibility to monitor students to an extent to protect themselves and others. If GoGuardian can do this then I have no problem with it.

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Is GoGuardian an invasion of students’ privacy?